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Briefs: OKC has UCI flavor

May 25, 2012

As Oklahoma City prepares to face San Antonio in the first game of the NBA Western Conference Finals Sunday (5:30 p.m. PT on TNT), fans may want to look closer at the Thunder bench as three members of their coaching staff have connections to the UC Irvine men's basketball program.

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks played two seasons with the 'Eaters (1985-87), averaging 23.8 points as a senior in 1986-87 when he was named first team All-Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. (now Big West). He scored 43 points on opening night of the Bren Events Center Jan. 8, 1987, when UCI defeated Utah State, 118-96. Brooks scored 41 points later that season in a 90-79 victory at Pacific Feb. 21, 1987.

He still holds the UCI record for career free-throw percentage at .859 (220 of 256). As a junior in 1985-86, he set what remains the Anteater single-season record for free-throw percentage at .886 (78 of 88).

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Brooks ranks No. 4 in UCI history in career steals (123) and seventh in three-point field goals (142).

He played 11 seasons in the NBA, including 1994 with the NBA-champion Houston Rockets. In 2010, Brooks received the Red Auerbach NBA Coach of the Year Award after guiding the Thunder to a 27-win improvement from the previous season.

He has led Oklahoma City to the NBA playoffs each of the last three seasons, including two consecutive Western Conference Finals.

Brooks lent his support to UCI athletics last September when he was host of the UCI/Scott Brooks Golf Invitational at Oak Creek Golf Club in Irvine. The event raised funds to support student-athlete scholarships at UCI.

Brian Keefe, an assistant coach with the Thunder, played two seasons at UCI (1994-96), earning Big West All-Freshman honors in 1995 and second-team All-Big West distinction in 1996.

He averaged 5.7 points his freshman season, and then led the 'Eaters in scoring as a sophomore at 16.4 points per game. Keefe scored 32 points against New Mexico State in a Feb. 17, 1996, game and 29 in a win at Long Beach State Feb. 12, 1996.

Keefe, UCI's team captain as a sophomore, earned all-tournament honors at the Joe Lapchick Memorial Tournament in New York that the 'Eaters won with victories over Siena and host St. John's in November of 1995. Keefe scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half of UCI's 83-77 win over St. John's in the championship game. It marked the first time in the 21-year history of the tournament that a team other than St. John's won the title.

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